In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisnerosdepicts the female bildungsroman genre differently than her predecessors such as Bronte, Browning, and Franklin. Published far more recently than the previous authors, Sandra Cisneros is more able to openly discuss other pertinent feminine themes such as domestic abuse, suicide, prostitution, and rape; additionally, Cisneros provides a text that directly addresses the female coming-of-age story from not only a female, but an ethnic perspective.
Even without historical context, it has been throughout history that ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of racism and stereotypical responses. For Esperanza, her unwillingness to accept the house on Mango street stems from the shame she feels for her impoverished lifestyle influenced by socioeconomic factors that have existed as long as humanity. To emphasize cultural differences, the narrator writes, “At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurts the roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver…” (10). Esperanza expresses the desire to change her name finding fault in her heritage through others’ mispronunciation. She further stresses this difference by describing Meme’s sheepdog as having “two names, one in English, one in Spanish” (21).
In a chapter that most directly addresses racial tension “Those Who Don’t”, Esperanza writes, “Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake” (28). Esperanza explains that her mother thinks she could have been someone, but that she lived in this city her whole life (90). Women throughout the novel are depicted as victims of circumstances, and otherwise incapable of transcending their current station in life—examples include Esperanza’s mother, Rafaela, Sally, and Ruthie. These women are also portrayed not only as victims, but prisoners of fate, one which Esperanza seeks to escape. Esperanza’s last words allude to her desire to not only leave Mango street, but to use any future successful accomplishments to come back for the ones she left behind, “for the ones who cannot out” (110).